FAQ for Takata airbag recalls

A compulsory recall has been announced in Australia for motor vehicles containing defective Takata airbags. The following frequently asked questions provide consumers with further information.

What's the difference between the compulsory and the voluntary recalls?

Voluntary recalls are initiated by the suppliers. A compulsory recall is ordered by the responsible Minister.

A number of vehicle suppliers have voluntarily recalled vehicles fitted with defective Takata airbags in Australia. The compulsory recall requires all suppliers of vehicles with defective Takata airbags to recall all affected vehicles in Australia.

The compulsory recall specifies the manner and timing of the recall activity, which may be different to recall activity under the voluntary recalls. Suppliers may face penalties if they don’t meet the requirements in the compulsory recall. A compulsory recall doesn’t compel consumers to bring in their vehicles for replacement of the airbag, but it does require vehicle suppliers to undertake various obligations which will facilitate the recall and replacement of affected airbags.

Do I have more rights under the compulsory recall?

The compulsory recall requires all suppliers of vehicles with defective Takata airbags to recall the vehicles and specifies the timeframe for replacement of the airbag. You can have confidence that if your vehicle is affected, it will be fixed within a specified timeframe.

The compulsory recall may also require suppliers to provide consumers with loan/hire cars or reasonable alternative transportation in certain circumstances during the replacement process. Suppliers may face penalties if they fail to comply with a requirement of the compulsory recall.

Importantly, consumers still have rights and remedies (and suppliers have obligations) under other laws (including the Australian Consumer Law).

How do I know if my vehicle is affected by the recall?

Your vehicle supplier will contact you to arrange a free replacement of the airbag when it initiates recall action for your vehicle. Make sure the supplier has your correct contact details.

You can also check if your vehicle is currently under active recall by looking on the supplier’s website or on our website.

You will need to know your vehicle identification number, or ‘VIN’, which is a unique 17 character serial number that can be found on your vehicle or in documentation (such as registration documentation). See: How to find your VIN number

If your vehicle is not currently under active recall, it is important to check again in the future as recall action may later be initiated for your vehicle.

Your vehicle manufacturer is required to publish a recall initiation schedule and searchable recall database on their website by 1 July 2018. The recall database will allow you to check the recall status of your vehicle (active recall or to be recalled in the future) by searching for its VIN, and the recall initiation schedule provides the dates of all recalls (active and future). You can also subscribe to receive updates  about current and future recalls on our website.

What should I do if my vehicle is recalled?

If your vehicle is under active recall, contact the supplier as soon as possible and make an appointment to get the defective airbag replaced.

You will not be charged for the replacement. Contact information for your supplier is included in recall correspondence, on the supplier’s webpage and on our vehicle supplier contact details page. If you think you have been charged, please report it to us.

You should also ensure that your supplier has your correct contact details. This will ensure you receive all correspondence regarding the recall, particularly if your vehicle is not under active recall to have the airbag replaced immediately – it may be scheduled for recall initiation and replacement of the airbag or in the future.

Which vehicles are the highest priorities for airbag replacement?

Replacements of alpha airbags in vehicles must be scheduled immediately as they pose the highest risk of rupture.

For vehicles that contain other types of defective Takata airbags, older vehicles and those exposed long-term to hot and humid conditions are at increased risk of an inflator rupture. Driver side airbags (as compared with passenger side airbags) also pose increased risk of serious injury or death if a rupture does occur due to the proximity of the airbag to the driver and its positioning in the steering wheel.

Consequently, the compulsory recall requires suppliers to prioritise replacement of airbags in vehicles which fall into one or more of the following categories:

  1. vehicles currently registered in areas of high heat and humidity
  2. older vehicles, particularly those that are older than 6 years
  3. vehicles with driver-side inflators.

What is a Takata alpha airbag?

Alpha airbags are a subset of Takata airbags that were installed in some vehicles supplied in Australia between 2001 and 2004. Alpha airbags have been identified as posing a significantly higher safety risk than other Takata inflators because they have been shown to rupture more frequently.

It is critical that owners of vehicles with alpha airbags take immediate steps to have the airbag inflators replaced because of the significant risk of injury or death associated with these inflators.

It is strongly recommended that owners of these vehicles stop driving their vehicles immediately. The supplier must offer to arrange for your vehicle to be towed to the place of replacement or for a qualified technician to travel to you (or some similar arrangement) so that you do not have to drive your vehicle if you do not wish to do so.

What about the like-for-like replacements? Is this safe?

Yes, it is safe for a time. The risk of a defective Takata airbag rupturing may arise between 6 and 25 years after it is installed in a vehicle. In areas of high heat and humidity, the risk of rupture may arise between 6 and 9 years.

Due to a global supply shortage of replacement airbag inflators, it has been necessary for some suppliers to use new affected Takata airbags as replacements, even though those new airbags will also be recalled and replaced in the future to ensure long term safety (‘like for like’ replacement). If a supplier has done a like for like airbag replacement in your vehicle, then the supplier will contact you to arrange the replacement at the designated time.

From the time of the compulsory recall, a supplier doing a like for like replacement must notify you at the time it does so (verbally and in writing) that the airbag will need to be replaced again. The supplier must also put a notice on your windscreen and in your engine bay stating that a further replacement is required.  If such a replacement was done in the past, you may not have been notified of the need for a further replacement at the time (but the supplier will now notify you, and it will advise you when it is time to replace the airbag, as long as it has your correct contact details). 

You should not postpone having your affected airbag replaced by a new airbag due to concerns that the replacement may be the same type as the old inflator. The newer airbag will not pose a safety risk for some time. The older the vehicle, the higher the risk of misdeployment and the more urgent the need for replacement.

Contact your vehicle manufacturer if you are unsure.

Should I disconnect my airbags while I’m waiting for a repair?

No. Disconnecting the airbag is not recommended by road safety authorities. If you are involved in a car accident, it is far more likely that your Takata airbag will perform properly and protect you than it will misdeploy and cause harm.

In addition, if the airbags are disconnected then the vehicle will be considered unroadworthy and cannot be registered or insured.

Can the replacement part be shipped to me/my local mechanic for installation?

No. Airbags contain explosive materials and are dangerous to handle. There are restrictions around transporting them and they should only be fitted to vehicles by suitably qualified mechanics.

Replacement of the airbag will usually be done at a dealer in the supplier’s network. However, in special circumstances, a supplier may authorise a third party to conduct the replacement free of charge to the consumer.

What are the requirements for getting a loan car?

You can ask for one, but a supplier may not be legally required to provide one to you.

If you are required to leave your vehicle with the supplier for more than 24 hours in order to replace the airbag, then the supplier must provide you with a loan or hire car, or offer to fund or provide reasonable alternative transportation, if you request it.

In addition, if your vehicle has an alpha airbag, then, if you do not wish to drive your vehicle, the supplier must offer to tow the vehicle to the place of replacement or arrange for a technician to travel to you.

For other vehicles, at the consumer’s request, suppliers must offer to make special arrangements for replacement where reasonably warranted by the consumer’s circumstances. Circumstances which may warrant special arrangements includes (but are not limited to) situations where the consumer is:

  • elderly, infirm, or disabled
  • located more than 250 kilometers from the nearest place of replacement, or
  • located on an island which does not have a dealer in the supplier’s dealer network or another qualified place of replacement authorised by the supplier.

I was in a crash and had a replacement airbag installed by a repairer. How can I tell if the replacement airbag is an affected Takata airbag?

Contact the business that replaced your airbag and ask what type of airbag was fitted into your vehicle, and then check with the supplier of your vehicle to confirm whether the inflator is an affected airbag. If the business that replaced the airbag is not able to provide the information, contact the vehicle supplier to arrange for the airbag to be checked. If your vehicle was fitted with a defective Takata airbag inflator, the supplier of your vehicle will confirm details regarding time for recall and replacement of the airbag.

Why aren’t both the driver and passenger side airbags in my car subject to a recall?

It is possible that only one of the airbags in your vehicle is affected by the recall, as manufacturers may use airbags made by multiple suppliers in the same vehicle.

However, in some vehicles, both the driver and passenger side airbags are defective. Your supplier may replace these at different times, depending on spare parts availability, though they must try to replace both at the same time.

What about second-hand vehicles?

Regardless of whether you bought your vehicle brand new or second hand, you are entitled to receive a replacement airbag free of charge.

To ensure that you are notified if your vehicle is subject to the Takata airbag recall, you should contact the Australian office of the manufacturer of your vehicle to ensure that they have your current contact details.

If your vehicle is affected by the recall, and you sell your car prior to receiving your final replacement, you should advise the new owner that the vehicle has an affected Takata airbag that will require replacement, and contact the Australian office of the manufacturer and provide them with the new owner’s contact details (with the new owner’s consent). 

I recently bought a second hand car and have just received a letter about the recall. I wasn’t told about the recall when I purchased the car. What are my rights?  

Businesses must not sell cars that are under active recall before having the defective Takata airbag replaced. Businesses that fail to do so may face penalties for non-compliance with the compulsory recall

If your car was under active recall at the time you purchased it from a second-hand dealer, please report it to us.

If recall action is not yet initiated for the car, and the second-hand dealer knows that the vehicle is subject to future recall, then the dealer can still sell it to you, provided they inform you about the future recall. They must also advise you of the risk associated with the airbag. This information must be given to you verbally and in writing.

Does the recall affect my vehicle registration or insurance?

The recall of the airbag in a vehicle does not make the vehicle unroadworthy or unregisterable. Contact your state or territory vehicle registration authority for further information regarding registration of an affected vehicle.

The recall should not affect your insurance. If your insurer tells you otherwise, you should seek confirmation of your insurer’s position in writing so that you may seek advice from the Insurance Council of Australia and/or the ACCC. If the issue is not resolved, please report it to us and provide a copy of the advice you have received from the insurer.

What should I do about my grey/parallel imported vehicle?

The compulsory recall only applies to suppliers in Australia. If you own an enthusiast or specialty vehicle that is not generally available for sale in Australia (sometimes known as a grey or parallel import), you should contact the manufacturer’s head office in the country the vehicle was imported from to check whether it has an affected Takata airbag that requires replacement.

If you purchased the vehicle directly from an overseas company and imported it into Australia on your own behalf, you should contact the vehicle manufacturer’s Australian office to see if they can arrange a replacement or provide the necessary spare parts.

If you purchased the grey/parallel imported vehicle from a business in Australia, you should check with them to see if your vehicle is affected by the compulsory recall. As the supplier, the grey/parallel import business is required to arrange for the airbag to be replaced in your vehicle. If the business will not replace your airbag, please report it to us.

Does the compulsory recall affect my rights under a class action?

The compulsory recall is independent from any class actions against vehicle suppliers. The ACCC is not involved in any class action relating to Takata airbags. You should seek independent legal advice for more information about any class action.

Despite your involvement in any class action, if your vehicle is under active recall, it is important that you schedule a replacement as soon as possible to ensure the safety of all those driving or riding in your vehicle.

More information

About the compulsory recall